As usual, Aunty B, you are spot on – and Mike Williams makes some very good points as well. It sounds like Rachel has an unusual degree of self-awareness, which is refreshing these days, even if it hasn’t been enough to save this particular venture. While I would guess that her business is somewhat outside of our normal industry vertical in ICT, we would be happy to provide some informal advice if that would be of help (please feel free to pass on my details).
If it is indeed a micro-business (below $1 million revenue) and not profitable, there may still be a positive outcome if it’s a general enough operation that it might suit one of the growing coterie of ‘involuntary entrepreneurs’ who are leaving larger corporations and seeking new opportunities. Many are, quite literally, looking to buy a job. If this is the case, general advertising and sites like Bizexchange can be a great way to reach that general market.
For more unique businesses, and those requiring specialist skills, I would have to contradict Mike in one respect though, and encourage Rachel not to short-list and contact the top 5 prospects, but rather to quickly work through the entire list. Our experience has shown that one’s ability to predict where strong drivers for acquisition lie is poor, meaning that some very strong buyers can lurk well outside of your short list, so selling this sort of a business tends more towards the numbers game, and less toward the focussed selling that we generally advocate.
If in fact there is a strong potential in the business, even if Rachel has not personally been able to realise it, there is certainly every potential of being able to put an appropriate deal together. That might not take the form of a simple sale, and might in fact provide an ongoing role that’s might be more appropriate for her – and enjoyable. Rachel and the business may both be too valuable to each other, to just walk away.
In that respect, this could provide a great example of a point we often make – that M&A is a normal step along the growth path of a business, not the end of it.